A writer friend of mine a few years back decided to declare games like these as “GPS games.” Sure, he was talking about a game of football where the ball is shaped more like an egg than a sphere, but the meaning is still the same. These “GPS games” essentially tell you where you are as a team, and they come against quality opposition that very much established as one of the best in the league.
Or, in this case, the Champions League.
Wednesday is going to tell us where Juventus is actually at all of about six weeks into the 2021-22 season. As much as Juve’s first Champions League group stage game was a refreshing performance on top of a win, things are going to be getting as real as real gets. In what will be the first Champions League game at Allianz Stadium played in front of fans in the stands since the group stage two years ago, Juventus welcomes the reigning European champions and their deep, talented roster to Turin for what will certainly be a game that will either impress us or frustrate us but also tell us a lot about where Max Allegri’s squad is at entering the month of October.
See what I mean? A GPS game.
You find out where you are and go from there.
Juventus, at the moment, is nothing special. That might even be a description that is somewhat flattering even though they’re coming into this game on the back of their first two Serie A wins of the season. And that’s even when they’re completely healthy. As we know, they’re not going to be completely healthy for Chelsea’s visit to Turin Wednesday night, with Juve’s top two strikers out injured.
That’s not exactly what you want to have happen when you’re about to face what is easily one of the best defensive teams in all of Europe, but that is exactly what is happening.
Allegri’s squad is far from full strength. Chelsea, on the other hand, enter Wednesday’s game in Turin with a defensive record that Juventus can only dream of and used come very close to replicating during first few years of the nine-year Scudetto run. Thomas Tuchel revamped Chlsea in virtually no time, and no in his first full season has only continued to build on that defensive success.
Just what are Juve going up against? Well, let me just say this: Just a few short hours before Juve was letting another two goals hit the back of the net in Sunday’s win over Sampdoria, Chelsea had just allowed its first goal from open play this season in a loss to Manchester City. Yes, open play. And through the first six Premier League games, Chelsea’s allowed all of two goals — total. That’s really freakin’ good, and it’s something that’s also completely frightening at the same time.
It might not be as bad if Juve had Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata healthy and available for this game. But it would still be quite the feat to both trying and break this Chelsea team down and score multiple goals against them. Now, with Juventus’ top two strikers out and a defense that is very much teetering between being somewhat competent and on the brink of disaster with every attack that comes its way, Juventus is very much up against it before the first Champions League game in Turin of the season even kicks off.
Maybe Allegri can work his managerial magic and pull a rabbit out of his hat and get some sort of positive result out of this one. It sure would be nice even though Allegri continues to believe that these two games against Chelsea won’t be what makes the difference in group stage play. (He’s not wrong, by the way.) But it’s not like there’s a lot of good, positive thing coming out of the black and white side of this matchup between two clubs that haven’t met in the Champions League since 2012.
Or maybe there is. I dunno.
Two wins over Spezia or Sampdoria doesn’t cure everything.
A solid performance over Chelsea, though — especially when you’re shorthanded like Allegri’s squad currently is — now that can maybe give you a little bit of reason to hope.
Just make sure you’ve got your GPS ready, too.
- Paulo Dybala is out injured.
- Alvaro Morata is out injured.
- Arthur is, still, out injured.
- Kaio Jorge, while not part of the Champions League squad list, is still out injured.
- Aaron Ramsey, somehow, is hurt again and will miss the Chelsea match due to muscle fatigue.
- Despite some fears earlier in the week that he could miss Wednesday’s match with an ankle injury, Adrien Rabiot is available and will be called up.
- At his pre-match press conference, Max Allegri named four starters for the Chelsea match: “Szczesny, Locatelli, Alex Sandro, Danilo.” Other than that, we are left to guess. (Although, with so many injuries, it might not be all that hard to guess.)
JUVENTUS PLAYER TO WATCH
You’re down two strikers, meaning there’s only one natural striker on the senior squad available for selection. Sometimes, this section is really too easy to figure out who’s up.
Moise, it’s your time.
Or at least your biggest chance to date.
To be fair, this probably could have easily been Dejan Kulusevski since he’s likely to step into the starting lineup. But, with Allegri talking recently about how Federico Chiesa can play as a striker as well as a winger on either side of the formation, it’s somewhat unsure of where he’s going to be playing unless Allegri suddenly reveals all of his starting lineup plans. (Which, as you can probably guess, is not something he does.)
Breaking news: He didn’t.
So now we are left to wonder if Allegri will stick with the 4-4-2 or if he will, out of necessity, switch to more of a 4-3-3 or even 4-2-3-1 because of the sudden lack of strikers available.
No matter what formation Allegri actually does go with — and it might be a case of actually waiting until the match kicks off to truly know for sure — you have to imagine that Kean is a lock to start simply because there’s nobody else capable of playing a No. 9-like role.
Sure, he may not be the same kind of No. 9 that Morata is and obviously doesn’t have the same kind of Champions League experience that the Spaniard does, but this is easily Kean’s biggest chance to show that coming back to Juventus was the right one and that Juve have more than just a couple of reliable forwards at their disposal. And it’s a chance that comes against a defense that has truly been great for nearly a full year now, putting up the same kind of numbers that few clubs can even come close to replicating over that time period.
That said, it’s not like Kean has really had many opportunities to show what he’s all about since coming back to Juve just yet. He’s barely played over 100 minutes in all competitions, and the fact that Morata has been rather good to start the season hasn’t exactly helped there.
So for one of the first times since he came back to Turin, Kean will be at the center of an attack that will be looking to him to provide the offensive punch. Maybe he’s complimented by Kulusevski up front or in the center of a trident where Federico Chiesa is bombing up and down one of the wings. Who knows right now. But for Kean, this is quite the opportunity — and it just so happens to come against the reigning Champions League winners.
Quite the turn of events from where he was a little more than a month ago.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021
Where: Allianz Stadium, Turin, Italy.
Official kickoff time: 9 p.m. local time in Italy and across Europe; 8 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 3 p.m. Eastern Time; 12 p.m. Pacific Time.
HOW TO WATCH
Television: BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom).
Online/mobile: Paramount+, TUDN.com, TUDN App, TUDNxtra (United States); DAZN (Canada); BTSport.com, BT Sport App (United Kingdom); Amazon Prime (Italy).
Other live viewing options can be found here, and as always, you can also follow along with us live and all the stupid things we say on Twitter. If you haven’t already, join the community on Black & White & Read All Over, and join in the discussion below.